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landlord/tenant Q&A

Lui & Young Realty, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I have a lease for another 8 months on the property I rented 4 months ago. I was just notified that the property is going to be placed on the market for sale. A sales agent called me and said me she would be scheduling appointments and open houses. I don’t want a bunch of people coming through the home at all hours of the day and night. Do I have to allow this? Can’t they wait until my lease is up? What are my rights?

A. I understand your apprehension and frustration, but I hope you realize that the owner usually has a good reason to sell the property in the middle of an existing rental lease and is not trying to antagonize you. The Landlord-Tenant Code states that you must allow reasonable access, but first, make sure the sales agent was actually hired by the owner. If the tenant refuses to allow reasonable access, the tenant could be liable to the landlord for any damage caused by their refusal. That “damage” will be determined in court and may include a monetary award to the owner.

The sales agent should provide you with specific instructions about the process. The first few weeks will be the most stressful. Showings will probably be more frequent when the property first goes on the market and then taper off. During open houses you will be expected to vacate the unit for several hours and will be asked to keep it in clean and safe condition. People will be opening your closets and cabinets so you need to secure valuables and other sensitive material.

Owners and agents realize showings and open houses put a strain on tenants and try to minimize the stress. You must be reasonable in allowing showings, but you are within your rights to request that there be no showings at certain times if it interferes with your schedule. If you work nights and sleep during the day, you should not be expected to allow showings when you would normally be sleeping.

The landlord and sales agent also have obligations. The landlord should give the tenant at least two days notice of intent to enter and only during reasonable hours. Even if the landlord gives 2 days notice, there must be consent from the tenant for every entry. If the tenant does not consent and the landlord or another person (with the landlord’s permission) enters the premises anyway, or if there are repeated demands for unreasonable entry, the tenant has grounds for termination of the rental agreement. In this situation, the tenant may also go to court to prevent the landlord from entering without permission and fines not to exceed $100 may be assessed to the landlord. The landlord is also liable for any theft, casualty or other damage caused by entry into the unit when the tenant has refused consent to the specific entry or when damage is caused by the landlord’s negligence.

Good communication and cooperation with the sales agent and your landlord will help to make this difficult situation less painful and may even help the sale to proceed quicker.

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